I read with interest "Toyota favors center-mounted controls" in your Oct. 4 issue, and I'd like to offer the following comments.
As the "first successfully streamlined American car" (according to the Museum of Modern Art), the Lincoln-Zephyr had center-mounted controls in 1937-39. The instruments were mounted above a pedestal that incorporated the radio speaker and gearshift lever. What goes around comes around.
The car was photographed at a program, "From Airflows to Zephyrs: The 70th Anniversary of Streamlining in Automotive Design," on Jan. 17 of this year at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. The event was a joint presentation of the western regions of the Airflow Club of America and the Lincoln-Zephyr Owners Club.
I initiated the event when I recalled that the first streamlined cars, trains and planes arrived in 1934. They included the Chrysler Airflow, of course; the Lincoln-Zephyr prototype shown at the Chicago World's Fair; the Burlington Zephyr train and the DC-2 airplane. Bob Thomas, a Ford stylist of the period, was a member of a discussion panel participating in the event.
I was an automotive stylist/designer (Ford, Raymond Loewy and Chrysler) and was inspired to become one when, as an 8-year-old, I saw the 1936 Lincoln-Zephyr.
Streamlining also was emerging in products; Raymond Loewy was busy designing the successful streamlined Sears Coldspot refrigerator, and Gruen created the Gruen Curvex watch, to mention two of those leading the trend.